In retrospect to the fight against acid rain, Smol said he could now see it as a training run for a much scarier fight against climate change. There were two reasons for the „Clean Hands“ approach. First of all, we were right to do so. And second, it provided strong empirical evidence against Washington`s argument that the only reason we wanted an acid rain cleanup was that Canada could sell more clean water to the United States. „In the event of acid rain, it has proven that conservationists can take environmental issues seriously and be part of this solution. And I think that`s what the Conservative Conservatives in Canada need to learn. First, in February 1985, prior to the Shamrock Summit, we reached an agreement with the seven provinces east of Saskatchewan to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 50% and 2.3 million tonnes from the base year of 1980 to 1994. We did that within only six months of taking office. There are two things that have been noticed about George H.W.
Bush. He first knew his files. Not only did he take his mission, but he knew his mission, and he knew the acid rain file better than any of his officials. He also told me during that call that he had gone to Camp David with a briefing book that dealt only with acid rain. And when he came down from that mountain, he was clearly determined to continue. And that`s where clean hands came in, which allowed me to get the Americans to act. „We have agreements with our provinces to reduce acid rain emissions in eastern Canada to half their 1980 level by 1994. But that`s only half the solution — because the other half of our acid rain is crossing the border, directly from the United States, falling on our forests, killing our lakes and polluting our cities. I said to them, „They are aware of Canada`s grave concerns about acid rain.“ In Canada, acid rain has already killed nearly 15,000 lakes, another 150,000 are damaged and another 150,000 are at risk. Many salmon rivers in Nova Scotia no longer support the species.
Prime agricultural land and important parts of our majestic forests receive too fine acid rain. However, the comparison of the two environmental threats can only go that far. While acid rain was a relatively simple cross-border issue, climate change requires global action. And while acid rain has been curbed by the reduction of some emissions, slowing climate change will probably require much more: a total exit from fossil fuel use. Thirty years ago, acid rain was at the top of Canada`s political agenda. Canadians were literally screaming at the rain. But it wasn`t even on the American radar screen.